Movies for the Homebound XII: Great Movie Dads

Posted on June 16, 2020 at 8:00 am

In honor of Father’s Day, here are some of my favorite movie dads, many of them based on the real-life fathers of the filmmakers.  Extra love to the two great dads in my life, my father and my husband. Give the dad in your life an extra hug and ask who his favorite movie father is!

Spencer Tracy in the original “Father of the Bride” may be befuddled by the planning for his daughter’s wedding, but when she is distraught because her fiance’s plan to go to Nova Scotia for their honeymoon is making her question her decision to marry him, we see one of the all-time great father moments in movies. Elizabeth Taylor, who played the young bride, always called Tracy “Pops” because of their time together on this film.

Clifton Webb plays real-life efficiency and safety pioneer Frank Gilbreth in “Cheaper by the Dozen,” with Myrna Loy as his partner and wife Lillian, based on the memoir by two of the twelve Gilbreth children (well worth reading).

“The Pursuit of Happyness” stars Will Smith as real-life Christopher Gardner, who went from being homeless to being a successful stockbroker, all the time caring for his son, played here by Smith’s own son Jaden, adding depth and authenticity to this inspiring story.

The classic play “Life With Father,” based on the book by Clarence Day, Jr. about his bombastic but affectionate father is a delightful movie starring William Powell, Irene Dunne, and Elizabeth Taylor.

In “The Lion King,” Mufasa is a wise ruler and a loving and devoted father who knows he must teach his young son that being king is more than just doing whatever you want.

Atticus Finch teaches his daughter Scout to read, and he teaches her that courtesy is the foundation of empathy and recognizing the humanity in others in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” based on Harper Lee’s memories of her own father.

“Parenthood” was inspired by the real-life experiences of its writers and directors and it shows. A wide variety of parental challenges are presented with warmth and understanding and Steve Martin excels as a dad struggling to be what his own father (Jason Robards) was not.

Laurence Fishburne plays Furious Styles in “Boyz N the Hood,” a father determined to teach his son, with his example and with their conversations, what it means to be a man in a world that can lead him into danger.

We don’t see much of Fess Parker in “Old Yeller,” but when he comes home near the end of the film, he is in one of the all-time great father-son scenes, giving his son room to mourn the dog who died but giving him some perspective about how he will not always feel so devastated.

A clownfish father voiced by Albert Brooks spends a whole movie searching for his son in “Finding Nemo,” and he learns some important lessons along the way about how to help his son become more independent.

 

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Movies for the Homebound XI: Dancing!

Posted on June 2, 2020 at 11:22 am

Movies to lift the heart and possibly inspire some exercise!  Some of my favorite movie dance numbers:

Bye Bye Birdie: When a pop idol is drafted, the teenagers go crazy in this classic musical starring Dick van Dyke and Ann-Margret. Two teenagers trying to make each other jealous make this dance number one of the all-time best.

The Step Up movies have some sensational dance numbers. Here’s one of my favorites from Step Up 3, to a song originally from a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie.

Here’s Astaire and Rogers in “Roberta.”

Another one of my favorite “Step Up” dances, from “Step Up: Revolution

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Choreographer Michael Kidd was famous for his wildly energetic dances and this is one of the best. At a barn-raising the mountain Pontipee brothers compete with the men from the town for the hands of the ladies.

It’s Always Fair Weather: Kidd appeared on screen in this film, featuring the remarkable garbage can lid dance with Gene Kelly and Dan Dailey.

Kiss Me Kate: Speaking of choreographers on screen, Bob Fosse dances along with Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Ann Miller, Carol Haney, and Jeanne Coyne (later Gene Kelly’s wife) in this merry musical based Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” with music by Cole Porter.

And here is Fosse with his wife, Gwen Verdon, in “Who’s Got the Pain” from “Damn Yankees.”

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Movies for the Homebound X: Love Stories You Probably Missed

Posted on May 26, 2020 at 8:00 am

Copyright Magnolia 2008
We all love romance. And we’ve all seen the recent classics: “Notting Hill,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The Notebook,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and all-time classics like “The Philadelphia Story” and “My Favorite Wife.” (If you haven’t, hey, watch them!) But you probably missed these, and they are all delights and blissfully romantic.

“I Love You Again” The all-time record-holders for romantic movie couples are William Powell and Myrna Loy, who not only created the greatest married couple in the history of movies with the Thin Man series but made other great films as well. “Libeled Lady” is one of the best, but my favorite is this one, about a stiff, stingy man who is hit on the head and discovers he is in fact a con man who has had amnesia for years, during which he got married and worked at a pot factory in a small town. So he decides to set up a swindle until he starts to fall for the woman he married but cannot quite remember. It is clever, sweet, and very funny. And romantic.

“Next Stop Wonderland” This is one of two movies on the list where we fall in love with the lovers before they fall in love with each other. Hope Davis is radiant as a just-dumped (by Philip Seymour Hoffman) woman whose mother takes out a personal ad for her.

“And Now My Love” In this French film, everything that has happened in the lives of two people (and in pretty much everything that has ever happened) seems to be for the purpose of getting two people together. By the time they are about to meet at the very end, we have been on the journey will them and know happy ever after is what comes next.

“Happy Accidents” The writer/director of “Next Stop Wonderland,” Brad Anderson, also wrote and directed this sweet story with Marisa Tomei as a young woman with a history of bad relationships who meets a man who seems great except that he insists he is a time traveler from the future.

“Ira and Abby” Jennifer Westfelft wrote and stars in the story of a man who has just gotten out of a relationship because he could not commit (a terrific Chris Messina) and impulsively marries the slightly nutty but very charming and warm-hearted young woman he meets at a gym (Westfeldt).

“The Baxter” If you’ve seen a romantic comedy, you’ve seen a wedding that was interrupted at the last minute when the bride’s true love burst in to carry her off. Well, according to his film, the poor loser left at the alter is called “the Baxter.” And this movie is the story of the Baxter, played by Michael Showalter, with an outstanding cast that includes Michelle Williams, Elizabeth Banks, and Justin Theroux, with a sensational performance by Peter Dinklage as a wedding planner.

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Memorial Day 2020

Posted on May 22, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Copyright 1989 TriStar
It’s a very different Memorial Day this year, much quieter, with no parades or community picnics. But now more than ever we have reason to show our appreciation for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Some movies to help us pay our respects:

Black Hawk Down: Elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.

Glory: The story of the first black regiment to fight in the Civil War, with an Oscar-winning performance by Denzel Washington.

American Sniper Bradley Cooper plays real-life army sniper Chris Kyle, who found his return home a different kind of challenge.

We Were Soldiers: The earliest US involvement in the Vietnam War has Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson) preparing for one of the most violent battles in U.S. history, making a promise to his soldiers and their families: “I will leave no man behind…dead or alive. We will all come home together.”

Red Tails: George Lucas directed this story of the multiple medal-awarded Tuskegee Airmen.

Midway: The story of the first major Allied victory of WWII.

The Longest Day: An all-star cast tells the story of the Normandy landing that changed the course of WWII.

And be sure to watch these documentaries, too.

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Movies for the Homebound IX: Animation

Posted on May 17, 2020 at 12:17 pm

Every family is familiar with the Disney and Pixar classics, which are ideal for families who are looking for something to watch at home. Here are some outstanding animated films from other studios to add to your viewing list.

The Thief and the Cobbler There’s a bit of controversy about this wonderful movie due to creative clashes, which you can learn more about in the behind-the-scenes documentary and “recobbled” version. But the theatrical release, with voice talent by Jonathan Winters, Matthew Broderick, Vincent Price and Jennifer Beals is a visually dazzling fairy tale that is genuinely enchanting.

Copyright 2016 Focus
Kubo and the Two Strings I am the biggest fan of LAIKA Studios and their exquisite stop-motion films, and it is hard to pick a favorite. “Coraline,” “Paranorman,” “The Box Trolls,” and “The Missing Link” are all beautifully designed with wonderful stories that don’t shrink back from exploring the dark and scary. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is about the son of a depressed mother who sets off with Monkey (Charlize Theron) to find the three pieces of Hanzo’s armor that he will need to fight the evil sisters and their father, who wants Kubo’s eye. Along the way they meet a samurai who has been cursed and turned into a giant beetle (Matthew McConaughey). And they meet and fight three different monsters, a giant skeleton, an underwater garden of eyes, and an enormous, floating, reticulated moon serpent, each giving Kubo a chance to discover his courage and power.mThis is a gorgeous, epic adventure with grandeur, scope, and spectacular settings, every bit of it wonderfully imaginative.

Kung Fu Panda: Jack Black provides the voice for Po, a panda with an unlikely ambition — he wants to be a kung fu master. But he is rejected by the teacher, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), and the Furious Five; Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). Po is not a natural. He says dejectedly, “I probably sucked more than anyone in the history of kung fu…more than anyone in the history of sucking.” He admits to Shifu that he only stayed “because I thought if anyone could change me, make me not me, it was you.” But Po will learn that the source of his strength is what no one can teach him — his sincerity and humility. Po will find within himself the strength, focus, and resolve to face Tai Lung. Followed by two sequels.

Surf’s Up: This story about a penguin (think very cold weather) who wants to surf (think very warm weather) is beguiling, thanks to vibrant visuals, superb voice talent, wit without ironic air quotes or snark, a sweet storyline, and a brisk running time. Like the sport it salutes and the island where it takes place, the movie has a laid-back vibe, taking its story, its humor, and itself lightly.

Spirited Away: Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki makes wildly imaginative, almost dreamlike films. Do not try to find a linear narrative, just enjoy the magic. A girl named Chihiro is on her way to move to a new city with her parents when they take a detour to what seems to be an abandoned amusement park. However, the park is filled with magical creatures and her parents are turned into pigs. Chihiro must grow up quickly in this exotic world not only to save her parents, but to survive. Other Studio Ghibli films to try: “Ponyo,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Princess Mononoke”

Wallace & Gromit Nick Parks’ stop-motion films are delightfully — and literally — hands-on. You can see fingerprints on the charming characters, the dim human Wallace and his ever-patient dog Gromit. All of their adventures are delightful in a slyly low-key manner, but I suggest starting with the first. Wallace is a fan of cheese, so why not go to the moon to find some?

Yellow Submarine: The Beatles have to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies in this gorgeous musical adventure with some of the world’s best music (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Eleonor Rigby,” “Nowhere Man,” “All You Need is Love,” “When I’m 64”) and some of the world’s most glorious animation.

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